Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aida at the Lyric

I took in Aida at the Lyric Opera the other day, and I do mean take in, for Aida one needs eyes as well as ears.  Outside of the vault scene perhaps not the most melodic of Italian operas, but is there one with more exotic pageantry?  Well, none that I’ve seen and this year’s offering at the Lyric does not disappoint.  New Lyric General Director Anthony Freud  writes in the guide book that this production is “as sumptuous a vision of this glorious work as you will find in any opera house today.”  Chinese soprano Hui He was fantastic as Aida and received a very warm ovation; the program guide says she’s sung the role many times, including at the Met and the Verona Arena.  Amneris was sung by Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Smirnova, whom Jay Nordlinger in The New Criterion said “sang with aplomb and guts” last season at the Met in Don Carlo, another by Verdi on a large scale.    

I'm fortunate to have seen Pavarotti about 30 years ago at the Lyric as Radames.  The guide book says that this year’s production is the one by Joel/Halmen that premiered with Pavarotti in 1983, but then, I seem to remember, the doomed lovers sang to each other in a vault with the spurned and remorseful Anmeris standing over them, while this time she was beneath them.  Well, either way, the love duet is the musical piece most worth waiting for, and one has to wait a good while – Aida is a long opera.  Once again, no elephants, but stunning visuals, rousing choruses, spectacular processionals, just enough ballet, great voices, and an unbeatable finale – grand opera indeed.

R Balsamo

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